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Wed June 29 2022

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Anti-ageing cream for roads

13 Apr 21 Highways England is hosting a trial of a new polymer-modified bitumen mix that is being described as an anti-ageing cream for roads.

Lab tests indicate that Total Styrelf Long Life slows down the aging process
Lab tests indicate that Total Styrelf Long Life slows down the aging process

A section of dual carriageway in Northamptonshire has become the first in the country to be resurfaced with Total Styrelf Long Life.

Total has several Styrelf polymer-modified binder (PMB) bitumen mixes, including Total Styrelf GP for racetracks and Total Styrelf Extreme for heavily trafficked roads.

The new mix being trialled is Total Styrelf Long Life. This is based on Total Styrelf Extreme but with additives to reduce the propensity for oxidative ageing.

Slowing down the ageing process means that the road surface stays flexible for longer, and so the binder’s initial performance characteristics, such as resistance to fatigue, fretting, and thermal cracking, are retained for longer.

Total UK has worked with Highways England and Tarmac to resurface a busy section of the A43 near Silverstone with the new mix. Three sections of the road have been surfaced, the first with a standard bitumen, the second with Total Styrelf Extreme 100 and the third with Total Styrelf Long Life.

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The trial could run for up to 15 years. Total UK’s team will take samples from each section of the carriageway at regular intervals to measure the ageing performance and key characteristics of the bitumen, and to understand the degradation caused by oxidation and UV exposure.

The new material has previously been tested in the laboratories of Total, and on sections of road in Holland and Germany, but the A43 trial is the first time it has been used worldwide with such high traffic levels.

Tarmac technical director Brian Kent said: “What we have in this case is essentially an anti-ageing cream for roads – just as these products are designed to reduce and prevent the signs of fine lines and overall ageing of the skin, the new bitumen being trialled on the A43 will protect the road surface. It not only has the potential to offer improved value for money to the public purse, but it also contains properties to increase the overall lifespan of roads. Through preventing cracks to the surface of the road caused by elements such as air and water, the longer life bitumen has the ability to reduce disruption, deliver long-term carbon savings and importantly help network operators to better manage their assets.” 

Highways England chief highways engineer Mike Wilson said: “We’re always looking for innovative ways to help us keep England’s motorways and major A-roads in good condition. The ultimate priority for us is safety so we invest in new technology and materials to keep those using the roads safe. Longer lasting roads means fewer roadworks, less disruption for motorists and a more sustainable network for everyone.”

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